Tag Archives: writing life

DragonCon, Here I Come . . . Again

This is one of those announcements that I just love to make: I am very pleased to say that I have been invited back to DragonCon as a guest (as D.B. Jackson, but I’ll be there promoting work under both my writing names). I will be speaking on panels, (perhaps) reading from my latest work, and selling books in the exhibitor’s hall in the Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair booth.

DragonCon is one of my favorite conventions, and each year a centerpiece of my event calendar. I am grateful to the folks at the con for having me back again this year. It offers me a chance to catch up with friends, interact with fans, and see all sorts of stuff I don’t see anywhere else — the weird, the impressive, and the unexpected. (As in the Chick-Fil-A zombie cows in this photo from a few years ago. . .)

DragonCowZombies

So, I’ll be in Atlanta the weekend of September 4-7, Labor Day weekend. Hope to see many of you there. For more information about my 2015 appearances, please go to this page.

A Book Goes Out, a Book Comes In, a Book Begins

I turned in a book today. Shadow’s Blade, the newly titled, third installment in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, is out of my hands and with my editor at Baen Books. That’s kind of exciting. I read it through this week, and though I struggled with it when I was writing the first draft, I’m very happy with how it came out.

And, of course, at pretty much the same time I turned that book in, I received the galley proofs of Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth volume in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson. So I know what I’ll be working on for at least the first part of next week.

After that, things get a little murkier, and far more intriguing. It’s time for me to start a new project. I have ideas, but nothing firm. Once those proofs are done, the brainstorming and worldbuilding and plot construction begins. I don’t know yet where it all will lead, but I’m eager to find out. Stay tuned. . . .

 

A Novel By Any Other Name . . .

My Facebook page was hopping today, because I asked for people’s opinions on the title for the book I’ve been working on. The book is the third in my new series from Baen, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson. The first two books in the series are called Spell Blind (released earlier this month) and His Father’s Eyes (coming out in August). The list of possible titles from which I asked people to choose included:

The Pale Blade (or Knife), The Stone Knife (or Blade), The Lost Blade (or Knife), The Necromancer’s Blade, The Killing Blade, The Blood Blade.

And the responses I got were fascinating, and made me think about what goes into a title, what makes a title work or not work.

First let me say that I’m grateful to all who have offered opinions thus far. I really am paying close attention to responses, because I want to get this right. Over the years, I feel that I’ve done pretty well with my book titles.  There are one or two that I think could have been stronger, but generally speaking I feel good about the titles I’ve chosen. (Among my favorites: The Outlanders, Seeds of Betrayal, Weavers of War, The Sorcerers’ Plague, A Plunder of Souls, Dead Man’s Reach, His Father’s Eyes)

But, of course, it’s entirely subjective. Others might not like any of those I’ve just listed, and might feel that one of the titles I didn’t mention as a favorite is better than all of them.

As an author, I want a title that sounds cool, whatever the hell that means. I want it to have a certain poetry, a cadence that rolls off the tongue. I also want it to conjure imagery that is both intriguing and representative of some key element of the book. But again, even these criteria are subject to personal taste. Today alone I’ve had someone tell me that he/she loves the title The Pale Blade because of the repeated long “a” sound. And I’ve had another reader say that the title doesn’t work for him/her for the exact same reason. Some folks love the word Necromancer, and others feel that I should avoid it at all costs. The Pale Blade emerged as a clear favorite, but it also elicited the most forceful negative responses. “It’s mysterious.” “It sounds cool.” “It’s boring and plain.” “It’s weak.”

Now, one might think that all these contradictory opinions would cloud the issue for me and make what will ultimately be my choice that much harder. But the fact is, the feedback is valuable if for no other reason than because I react to these arguments in a visceral way. And my responses give me a sense of where I’m leaning, what direction I think I might want to go.

I haven’t come to a decision yet (so feel free to weigh in on the discussion). Right now I’m thinking strongly about Pale Blade (without the “The”) and Lost Blade. But that could change. It’s possible that something will come to me that I haven’t even considered yet. So stay tuned. And again, thanks for the input.

Sewanee Book Signing Next Friday!

It’s late on a Friday, not the best time to be making public service announcements. But I am very excited to say that I will be signing books in my home town of Sewanee, Tennessee, a week from today.

Friday, January 30, from noon to 2:00 I’ll be in the University bookstore signing copies of Spell Blind, the first book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, as well as copies of all the Thieftaker books. So, Sewanee, hope to see you there!

Jiggity Jig

Yes, that’s right: Jiggity jig. As in “Home again, home again/Jiggity jig.”

I am back home, after a ten-day road trip that included a couple of successful book signing events, a Guest of Honor appearance at MarsCon 25, at least ten stock signings at bookstores in Virginia and North Carolina, and visits with some of my favorite people in the world. It was a great trip.

The only thing greater, is getting back to my wife and daughters, and settling back in to my home.

I am grateful to the folks at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond and the BooKnack in Rock Hill for hosting the signings. I had a great time hanging out with Bishop O’Connell at the Richmond signing and my wonderful friend Faith Hunter at the BooKnack. I’m also grateful to the store managers in Charlottesville and Norfolk, Cary and Durham, Raleigh and Hampton Roads, and all the other places I stopped in along the way, for carrying my books and allowing me to sign stock.  I loved being at MarsCon, and can’t thank enough the great folks who run and attend the convention.

And finally, I am so grateful to my friends who hosted me during the trip — Amy and Paul, Elizabeth and Trip, Faith and Rod.  Thank you all so much. It was so much fun to see you.

A Word About Editors

I have just turned in a revised version of the short story I submitted to TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, the new anthology being edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. I am on “Team Patty,” which means that Patricia edited my story. And her feedback, and the subsequent revisions I did on my story, reminded me once more (as if I needed reminding) of how important a good editor is for all that we write, regardless of length.

As it happened, my story didn’t really need extensive rewriting. But it did need polishing and some subtle changes to deepen the character work and clear up the plotting. I hadn’t realized that it needed these things; it took Patricia pointing them out to me, gently, diplomatically, professionally for me to see the issues and find solutions. It helped that she was looking at it fresh — having a different set of eyes look through a story always helps, which is why having Beta readers can be so helpful. But more than that, Patricia is a fine editor who understands storytelling and can diagnose narrative problems with a simple read-through.

Of course she’s not the only person who can do this. Joshua is an excellent editor as well, and I have been fortunate enough to have worked with countless others — both on my books and my short fiction — who have improved my work and taught me valuable lessons about the craft. And that, really, is the point. We ALL need editing. I have been writing for a long, long time, and I have never written anything that was so perfect it didn’t need at least some help. A good editor is invaluable. And a good writer understands that her/his work can always — ALWAYS — be improved by editorial feedback.

Dealing with Inaccuracies in my New Book

SpellBlind200Yesterday I received one of those emails that authors usually hate to get. A reader wrote to let me know that there were a couple of details in my new novel, Spell Blind (book I in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson) that I had wrong. I work hard on my research, and on those occasions when I happen to get something wrong, I am deeply disappointed in myself. And I have received messages in the past from readers who, let us say, did not handle the situation in a socially appropriate way, which makes the whole thing that much worse.

This time, though, the reader in question, did everything right. His email was courteous, informative, and respectful. It was clear to me that he wrote not to criticize, but rather to help. He was even kind enough to tell me that the small inaccuracies he found did not keep him from enjoying the novel. And armed with what he told me, I will be sure to avoid these errors in subsequent volumes of the series. I’m grateful to him for his help, and for his willingness to take the time to contact me.

I’m sharing this with you because I think we can all learn from this gentleman’s professional and thoughtful approach to contacting me. Just about every author has faced this at one time or another. We’re human, and sometimes we get things wrong. But I’ve been sent emails about mistakes I’ve made that were rude to the point of abusiveness. In fact, I’ve received emails “correcting” things that I DIDN’T get wrong, that were rude. There is nothing wrong with sharing our knowledge in circumstances such as these. As I said, his email helped me. But there is no need for cruelty, for abuse, for name-calling. Not to be too glib, but it’s one thing to be helpful, it’s another to be hurtful.

And what were my mistakes, and why would I share them here? Well, I’m always willing to share my good news — nice reviews, new sales, etc. This time, I messed up, as all writers do from time to time, and I feel that I should share that, too.

Early in the book, Justis Fearsson, my point of view character, mentions that he is licensed to own a firearm in Arizona. Arizona doesn’t issue such licenses. I also said that Jay became a detective in the robbery detail of the Phoenix Police Department upon graduating from the police academy. As it turns out, the PPD requires two years of uniformed duty before an officer can be assigned such a unit.

These are small matters that have little bearing on the plotting or character arcs.  But that doesn’t excuse my mistakes. I got these things wrong, and I apologize for that.

Moving on From MarsCon

I’m exhausted after a great weekend at MarsCon. Tomorrow I leave Williamsburg to do a few stock signings in North Carolina and then two bookstore events later in the week: a signing at the Books-A-Million in Gastonia, North Carolina on Tuesday (4-6) and then a signing at the BooKnack in Rock Hill, South Carolina with Faith Hunter on Wednesday (5:30-8:00). I’ll be signing copies of Spell Blind, the first book in my new series from Baen, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, and also copies of my Thieftaker books (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, and A Plunder of Souls) which I write as D.B. Jackson.  Hope to see many of you along the way.

Today at MarsCon 25

Panels on the best genre books of the past quarter century and overcoming writing blocks in our novels, readings and signings with the wonderful Alethea Kontis, David Weber, and Katherine Kurtz, countless conversations both serious and fun: Just another day at MarsCon 25.  Still more to come this evening, including the masquerade and the charity auction, and right now I’m trying to grab a bit of down time. But it’s been a terrific convention so far.